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Ellis Island Immigrant Dining Room Menu 1923
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Ellis Island Immigrant Dining Room Menu 1923


Twelve million immigrants passed through Ellis Island in New York during a sixty-year period from 1892 until 1954, helping to make the United States the culturally diverse country it is today. Anxious newcomers, who had endured transatlantic voyages by sea in “steerage” where they lacked adequate light and ventilation, were processed at Ellis Island, the country’s largest immigration receiving station. One of the first things the immigrants saw as they were ferried to Ellis Island from the docks was the Statue of Liberty, the shining emblem of the US as a refuge for the poor and persecuted, situated only a few hundred yards away.

The tidal wave of new arrivals was treated speedily and efficiently on Ellis Island. Many immigrants were free to begin their new lives in America almost immediately if their papers were in good order. Some stayed for short periods of time. Only two per cent of all arrivals were excluded from entry. The peak year for immigration was 1907 when more than a million people were processed. With the passing of the Immigrant Quota Act of 1921, the number of immigrants allowed into the United States began to decline, ending the era of mass immigration.

This menu or Bill of Fare dated June 5th 1923 shows the nutritious daily meals that were served to immigrants in detention quarters as they waited to be dealt with by the authorities. For many of these immigrants, who had little to eat in their home countries, it was the first time they had seen white bread and butter and had generous quantities of milk to drink. Mock turtle soup using cheap cuts of meat such as calf’s head or calf’s foot was used to replicate turtle meat and was part of that day's hearty dinner and, though we don’t know as yet what Liberty Pudding was made from, its meaning must have gladdened the hearts of many those sitting in that noisy dining hall.

Courtesy Henry Voigt.

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